Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Like it or Lump it...!

A recent article in the Daily Mail about living on war-time rations has been on my mind over the past few days, as it reminded me of how the little food that was available then (and it was a very small amount) was just enough to keep us healthy.  It didn't matter if the meals made were not to our liking, we had nothing else, so ate it we had to.

Fortunately we had the wonderful Marguerite Patten to help cooks discover that the simplest and basic ingredients that were available could be turned into something quite edible.  We still had to force ourselves to eat that dreadful National loaf (full of fibre but a nasty grey colour), but at least able to make it more palatable when spread with carrot jam. 

My mother bought me Marguerite's 'Cookery in Colour' when B and I set up our first home, and it was my bible, and think at one time or another must have cooked almost every recipe in the book.  Everything simple and easy to make - as were most dishes in those days before convenience foods and supermarkets became the norm.  Also each dish was accompanied by a colour photograph so that we could see what it should look like when served.  Definitely a 'need to know' as I was very much a novice cook.

Not sure whether this is happening with every school, but it does seem that life during World War II is a popular subject at the moment.  My B went to give a talk re this to a local school fairly recently and took a tray that showed a week's rations for one person.  All the children thought this was the food for just one day, and even then hardly enough. 

Because I remember living through the war, with food rationing carrying on until the early 50's, this means I have a different outlook re food than younger folk in the 21st century.  As my mother did, I use up every bit of food, save butter papers to grease cake tins, even unfolding the empty sugar bags to make sure every last crystal has been saved.  To me it makes sense, to others I'm sure it seems a lot of unnecessary faff.  They are probably right.

Some years ago I read about a group of doctors who wanted to prove that by just drinking milk, and eating/drinking nothing else at all for a month, could show how valuable milk was as a food.  This they did and after the month tests showed they were as healthy (and in some cases even healthier) than before they started.

Doubt very much that if I suggested - as milk is now being sold by supermarkets at £1 for four pints - that we certainly wouldn't starve if we bought a gallon of milk (£2) and lived off that for a week, and  this might be one way to keep ourselves going (if we were forced to).  Reader would be shocked, and probably the nice ones would still come up with all sorts of excuses why not to, such as  - "not enough fibre" or "I don't like milk". What's liking got to do with it?  It's still good food isn't it?  OK there are people who are lactose intolerant, I'm just giving an example of how we tend to believe we need to eat more - and often a lot more - to keep ourselves going for at least a few days and - of course - not forever.

One good thing - even the cheapest own-brand supermarket bread (45p for a large loaf) is infinitely nicer to eat than the war-time National Loaf, for which we should be thankful.  

Am sure many readers are critical of TV chefs who demonstrate budget recipes that cost more than most dishes we already make - and by watching the programmes are hoping to learn how to spend less.  Criticism (of any cook) is not the way to go, as once we start thinking 'how do they know, they've never been poor' (sort of thing), we stop concentrating and then miss all the hints and tips that really could make a great difference to our own cooking.   

Am pretty sure that I'm considered by some as to not know what I'm talking about just because I don't live in a cold bed-sit with one gas-ring to cook on.  Does this have to happen before anyone believes cost-cutting advice will work?
For that matter do we even need recipes, or need to cook at all?  There is enough food out there sold at extremely low prices that can be eaten without needing heating, and that would provide the necessary 'fuel' to keep us both alive and healthy.  It's just that maybe it's just not the food we wish to eat.  We tend to think that food is for enjoying, eating must be a pleasurable experience, we should only eat what we want, not what we should (and I'm eating chocolate as I write this - a case of 'don't do as I do, do as I say' - not that I expect anybody to do this anyway).

The wonderful thing about us all is that we are so different, and it doesn't matter whether we live in comfort or discomfort, when given a set amount of money (say £10) with a bit of culinary experience we would probably each end up buying much the same basic foods.  Even so, what suits one may not suit another, and that's what makes cooking so interesting.  .

One of the best ways to get the most for our money is to scroll down the on-line lists at various grocery stores.  It really is surprising how much can be bought for £10.  But then comes another problem - what is the best way to put them together and make a week's meals from them? 

Myself prefer the £10 worth of ingredients approach to cost-cutting cookery.  It's too easy to give a recipe, making out it cost only 20p a portion to make (more or less), because only the cost of the amounts used (often small) is taken into account.  Nothing is ever mentioned about the full price of each product and somewhere along the line these do have to be purchased. 
Only this week saw in a cookery mag a recipe made from a handful of a supermarket's own range, and the dish made wasn't too expensive - but on looking closely, only part of some of the products had been used, the full purchase price ignored.  

A good challenge for us all would be to take £10, go out and buy ingredients that we know will make plenty of meals (for one), and then live off these for a week (some, such as porridge oats, pasta... probably lasting longer than the seven days).  Certainly a challenge that would be more interesting (and tastier) than having to live on war-time rations for a week (which would probably cost us more than £10 at today's prices).

I've really had a ramble today and probably said nothing of interest.  Only older readers will relate to how it was then, and how it is today. 

Thanks for comments.  We too are having spring weather Margie, and this week said to be even warmer as the wind has now changed and coming from the African continent so we are told that many cars will be covered with the dust blown from the sands of the Sahara.  Temperatures expected to be in their mid-teens rising to 20C and even higher in some parts of the country. 
Rain in some parts (here in Morecambe you can blame me as earlier I'd asked B to water the containers in the garden because they were drying out!).

One good use for parsley Paid in Chickens is to make Parsley Honey.  I do have the recipe somewhere, and it is very good indeed.  Probably also on the internet, but I'll try and find it in case anyone wishes to make some.

Several years (decades) ago there was a trend for salads to be 'Americanised'.  My mother bought an American cookery book full of hundreds of different recipes for salads.  Do remember the Californian salad, and also several 'jellied' salads - these being really very nice to eat. 

When growing salads on your windowsill Grub-lover, sow a few radish and beetroot seeds in small pots, not necessarily for the root parts - the young leaves are lovely eaten raw when picked fresh and added to other salad leaves.

Can imagine your little hens eyes watering Sairy, when she laid her large double-yolked egg.  No she has got that out of her system she probably won't have any trouble laying another large egg.  If a hen does have trouble passing an egg (or expected to) a feather dipped in olive oil, then inserted into the egg-vent to lubricate the exit point will ease the passing through.

Blogger doesn't recognise BST, so continues with Greenwich Mean Time, this could cause confusion as to what day the blog is intended for.  If the time shown is close to midnight, then take is as for the following day.  It is now 1.30am so should show the correct blog for Tuesday.  Time I went to bed or might as well stay up and start my day early.   TTFN.